MILWAUKEE — Nets big man Jeff Green was cleared to return for Sunday’s Eastern Conference semifinal Game 4 after missing six straight playoff tilts with a foot injury.
The 35-year-old Green had been forced out of Brooklyn’s first-round Game 2 win over Boston after just 12:07 with a left plantar fascia strain. He’d initially been listed as questionable for Sunday’s tilt in Milwaukee, and had to go through pregame warmups before the Nets’ medical staff cleared him.
“Well, I don’t think we expect him to play a ton of minutes,” Steve Nash said of Green beforehand. “I think we’ve got to see how he looks and feels if he’s available, and see how it goes. He hasn’t played for a couple of weeks.
“He was on the court the last couple of days, but still in a kind of controlled environment. So I think a lot of unknowns there still. I mean, it’s nice to have him back, for sure. But we’re not sure what he can do and manage, and how sharp he’ll be. But we hope that we have the option of using him.”
Brooklyn got to use Green for the first time since May 25. And it couldn’t come at a better time, after suffering a galling Game 3 loss in Milwaukee.
The 6-foot-8, 235 pounder provided another switchable big in Game 4 to help slow Giannis Antetokounmpo. Or at least try.
Green, who averaged 11 points on .492 percent shooting and a career-high .412 from 3-point range, was second in games played this season for the Nets with 68.
Brooklyn got Green back, but hamstrung James Harden is still out despite the team’s claims the past few days that he’s making progress, and Nash struggled to define exactly what that progress consists of.
“I’m not sure I can answer it,” Nash admitted. “I’m just going off of (asking) how’s James doing? ‘Good. It’s getting better.’ So, I asked him and he says he’s feeling better, doing better. I ask the staff, they say ‘yeah, it’s getting better.’ So I don’t know if I can detail what that is fairly.
“But he is on the court. He’s doing some shooting, some movement, his rehab, and he’s progressing in the right direction. But I don’t know exactly what he’s capable of right now. I think he’s still in that area where he’s got a little gap to make up. But he’s getting closer. So it’s been positive.”
Brooklyn lost Harden just 43 seconds into the series with right hamstring tightness, and he hasn’t played since June 5.
When pressed on exactly what benchmarks Harden has to clear before the performance team and trainers will clear him to play, Nash said it amounts to stringing together consecutive high-intensity practices.
“Just going off the last couple of occurrences with his hamstring, there’s a certain amount of continual high-intensity loads,” Nash said. “When he’s able to get up to full speed and do it for two or three days without recurrence or setback, then I think that’s kind of the markers.”